If you grew up in Bureau County, chances are you have been “tubin’” on Bureau Creek.
Big Bureau Creek is seventy-three miles long and meanders its way from Mendota through Bureau County to the Illinois River.
Much of the time, the creek is calm and slow. But that changes depending on the amount of rain and thunderstorms that cause the creek to rise in width and depth. Like any body of water, it demands respect because not using caution can change a fun afternoon into an unforgettable tragedy.
My children are all grown adults and still harbor secrets about the dangers they faced on the creek. I prefer not to know.
Our family trip took place thirty-seven years ago on a bright Sunday afternoon.
We took our tubes and rafts and entered the creek at Dover. All was well. The water was low so at times we got out and waded along. The only bit of excitement happened when someone came eyeball to eyeball with a green snake dangling from an overhanging branch. I am certain that there were wary critters all along our route watching us wondering what in the world we were doing.
Hour after hour passed, we floated along until we arrived at the City County Park and Route 26 Bridge. Suddenly hours of sheer boredom became moments of sheer terror. Under the bridge the water narrowed and became swifter, the currant took hold and Teresa, Guy and Buck were carried down stream while the straps from Amy’s life jacket became entangled in the root system of a fallen tree.
Fortunately, she and I were on the same raft. Some how I gathered my wits and pulled her up above the water enabling me to untangle her straps. That freed her from the tree roots. As I recall, I did not panic then. That feeling would not come until the middle of the night, when I began to realize what a narrow escape we had.
We all came together down stream and continued to float to our destination, The Red Covered Bridge. We planned to picnic there, but our arrival was greeted by the swarm of a BAZILLION mosquitoes! Forget the picnic! Fortunately, my mom, Grandma Wyckoff, was waiting to meet us. We jumped in her car and we headed for home.
We survived, we were home, the picnic took place on our screened back porch. Over the years, as this story is repeated, the green snake has gotten longer and the mosquitoes more vicious.
The truth be known, we were ill equipped to be on the creek. I encourage anyone planning a trip down any creek or river, to exercise caution and be prepared for hours of sheer boredom to become moments of sheer terror.
Rivers know this: There is no hurry. We shall get there someday….Pooh